Monday, April 29, 2013

Losing the Love

I am plugging along in Revelation.  While I haven't had a bunch to write on in the last few days it has been nice to go through slowly, a few verses at a time and really take it all in on my own.  So far, so good.

The last couple days I have been reading on the first church Jesus talks to John about.  One of the seven gold lampstands.  The church in Ephesus.  While Christ has many good things to say about the church and its followers in Ephesus, he has one complaint as well; they have lost their first love.

It kind of made me think about marriage.  You know, getting out of that honeymoon stage.  At first it is all bliss and kisses and googley eyes and all that mushy stuff and then that passes and it is just life.  Sure, you still love each other, but some of the excitement has waned and life just takes over.  It takes more work to keep the excitement alive.

I think that is what is happening here in Ephesus.  At first they were all "Gung-ho" excited about the forgiveness and hope and love that Christ gives.  They were filled to the brim with wanting to share it and pass that love around, and then life continued and the enthusiasm dulled. 

The thing is, with Christ's love we can't lose our enthusiasm.  It is something we must always be so thrilled about having that it seeps out of us.  It takes work, just like it does to keep the love alive in a a marriage, but both are completely worth it.

What are some ways you work to keep your excitement alive in your relationship with Christ?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Repainting the Mental Picture

When I picture Jesus in my thoughts I see a gentle man with soft eyes and hands, brown flowing hair, robes for his clothes and sandals on his feet.  I see what I have seen portrayed in hundreds of children's Bibles and books and paintings of the Last Supper and even on a crucifix. 

But, that was Jesus when he lived here on earth as a man.  While reading Revelation today, John described what Jesus looks like in His heavenly form.  Something, I can't even quite grasp.  And yet, when I think of all the word- illustrations John includes, I still see my gentle, loving Lord.

It is hard to re-evaluate what you have had stuck in your head since childhood, but it is true.  When we get to meet Him face to face, I am guessing He will not look like the man He was here on earth.  He is God.  John describes a man with white-like-snow hair, a long robe with a golden sash, His eyes as bright as fire flames, and His feet like polished bronze.  Definitely not the soft-skinned, gentle-eyed and robed man I envision on a daily basis. 

Secondly, it says that when He spoke his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves.  Yet another thing that doesn't match my mental perception.  Again, I hardly ever think of Christ raising His voice (except maybe that time he overturned all the tables in the temple courts).  And, yes, He may not be raising His voice, but mighty ocean waves are far from soft-spoken in my book.

The description of his mouth backs this up as well.  A sharp two-edged sword is used to depict what I understand as His tongue.  Which is a perfect picture of Hebrews 4:12  "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

I think it is time I repaint the image in my head of Christ.  He has changed.  He no longer lives in His earthly body.  He is God and does not look like man.  I am going to try and carry this version of Him in my mind as I continue through the book of Revelation.  What a mighty and powerful Lord we have.

Monday, April 15, 2013

That About Sums it Up

God is indescribable, really.  There isn't a way you can really put His power and glory and might and love and everything else into words.  But I do have to say that Revelation 1:8 really does a pretty decent job and I think it is one that I need to remind myself of every day. 

"'I am the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end,' says the Lord God. 'I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come - the Almighty One.'"

That He is and I am so thankful.  I also learned that Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, hence the beginning and the end.  Sadly, I never knew that before but I am sure glad I do now.  I love learning when I am in the Bible.

Reminding yourself of these facts in any situation is sure to make you breathe easier. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rest In His Words

I am a bit overwhelmed this week. We are needing to move forward with some big MOPS decisions for our team next year, I am co-chairing the PTO carnival this Saturday, my grandmother is in the hospital in Omaha, I had to spend 3 hours at the Eye Dr. with one of my girls, my best friend was finally able to make it down to see me and hang out for the day, I am participating in an open house, I had to have a cavity filled, and I still need to find time to run.

To say I haven't found the time to sit down and read my Bible has been an understatement. But when looking at my to-do list just for today, God whispered to me, "make sure you spend time with Me." I knew it was true. There was no way I was going to plow through that list and my day today with 6 kids in my house without finding some rest in His arms and His Words.

While the words I read today may not be restful, they are perfect for reminding me why I need Him each and every day no matter how busy my schedule might be.

"Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen." Rev. 1:4-6

Such powerful words that remind me of many, many things I always need to know: God is, was, and always will be; I have the Spirit within me; and Christ is the King who saved me.  It is all I need to sustain me.  It was just what I needed to hear to keep me moving and move I must.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Early Encouragement

As I continued to read the supplemental information in my Study Bible, I dove into the first few verses as well.  So far, so good.

But verse three made me smile.  God is rewarding me already for moving forward and not being intimidated by part of His Word that might be a little harder to understand. 

"God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near."

How can you listen and obey the message and reap its blessings if you don't even read it? 

I love how John instructs us to treat all of this information as it might happen any minute; "the time is near."  While, the time could still be 100's of years off, Christ made it clear that no one knows when that time will be and we must treat it as if "the time" could happen in the next hour.  For none of us want to be caught unprepared for the return of Christ. 

Revealing Revelations

It took a little while to convince myself I'd make it through, but I decided to do it.  I am going to continue on with my reading through the New Testament and read Revelation.  I do have to admit that I am a little intimidated.

Do you have any advice for me?  Any good supplemental reading things I should consider?

I have done a study on Heaven with one of the pastors at our church where we read a lot of Revelation.  I have read the Left Behind series, which, yes, is fiction, but still gives a somewhat visual presentation on a what it could be like.  I think I'll be OK to take it on.

But, my trepidations got me thinking?  Why do we let the Bible intimidate us?  Why do we think it is too much for us to be able to understand?  God gave us His Word to read and study and use in life.  He didn't say, "Use most of it," or "Use what you can understand." 

Romans 15:4 tells us, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope."

2 Timothy 3:16 also says, "For all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness."

See?  No where in these verses does it say "some scripture" or  "the parts you understand easily", but ALL and EVERYTHING. 

So I am taking this as a leap of faith in my amazing God.  That He will reveal to me through His Holy Spirit what He intends for me to learn from reading through Revelations on my own. 

Hang on, it could take me a while, but I will make it and I can't wait to see what I will discover.  I started off just reading the introduction and background information last week.  I even learned new things there.  So I am excited to see what He has in store.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Chocolate Covered Lesson

I have always said that if I didn't love chocolate so much I would be 10 lbs lighter.  I learned through this past Lenten season that this fact is definitely NOT true.

I gave up chocolate for Lent.  And, no, I am not a Catholic or a Lutheran or any denomination really, but I do really respect the idea of a Lenten fast.  Giving up something, making a small sacrifice to help identify with the sacrifice He made for me makes sense.  It serves as a daily reminder and another tool in living out Easter more than just one day.  I am not sure this is the entire idea behind the fast in the Catholic church, but it is the part I take and use as a lesson to myself every year.

In the past I have always given up something that I enjoy and I know would be something that would make me stop and think and pray everyday through not taking part in it.  I have done things like TV, soda, various foods and the Internet.  This year I took a big plunge and gave up my favorite food of all.  Chocolate.  Don't laugh, I have issues with chocolate.

If you laughed before, you'll be rolling now, but giving up chocolate has been the hardest thing I have ever sacrificed in all the years I have fasted.  I do actually eat and/or crave it on a daily basis.  So, every time I would have a craving for my favorite food, I would remember to pray and then find an alternative something to eat or drink.  But what I realized the night before Easter made me stop and praise Him for the very hard six weeks.

Nothing ever filled that craving.  I could eat any kind of sweets or drinks and I still wanted more.  I wanted something else.  I still craved chocolate.  Nothing ever filled the craving I had.  And on Saturday night, as I drove home from our Easter Cantata at church and wanted something sweet, I swung through DQ and picked up a banana cream pie blizzard.

It was delicious, but I stopped at a stop light and thought, "It may be good, but I still can't wait until I get to eat chocolate tomorrow.  Nothing is as good as the real thing." 

And then it hit me. 

That is exactly how it is with God.  We can spend our whole life searching for our identity, our calling, our purpose, what will make us happy or _______________ (fill in the blank for what you think might be missing), but what we are really craving is Him. 

He is what completes us. 

He is where we find contentment.

He is what fills that void we can't seem to fill with anything else.

Nothing else will do. 

Easter morning is what completed us, what gives us contentment, and what fills the void.  The cross is the bridge that connects us to Him and all these things.  Nothing can separate us from His love once we accept it in our hearts. He can do it all.  He really can.  There is no one, or no thing you will ever find here on earth that can do that for you. 

Not even chocolate.

It Doesn't End There

Thankfully, Isaiah goes on and helps rescue us from the guilt of our sin paid by the blood of Jesus.  "Yet when His life is made an offering for sin, He will have many descendants.  He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord's good plan will prosper in His hands.  When He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish, He will be satisfied." Is. 53:10b-11a

I may feel guilty that the fact I cannot remain sinless drove Jesus to the cross, but I can rejoice in the fact that I am loved and God is satisfied.  I can rejoice in Him.  I will be counted righteous through His sacrifice.  The end of Isaiah 53 paints such a picture of love and hope to follow the picture of pain and despair.  He is alive.  Praise God His love didn't end at the cross, but continued to the tomb and the resurrection.

And, yes, once again I was a blubbering mess during our Easter services this year.  I screech and squawk through the music because I want to sing with all that I am but the tears just get in the way.  But, I am going to rejoice in this fact.  I love what He has done for me so much that it moves me to tears.  And, like I said in my last post, this emotion should not just overtake me at Easter, but every single day because His forgiveness didn't end at Easter.  It is promised for us yesterday, today and forever.  Praise God.